Biofouling UV Light with Lens Optics

Biofouling is a major problem for technical equipment that has to remain operational underwater for long periods of time. Crusts of mussels and barnacles usually cause mechanical problems, but even thin biofilms of algae and bacteria can damage sensitive surfaces and measuring equipment, as well as interfere seriously with measurements.

After about three years of development, an antifouling device designed at the IOW has now been licensed for commercial production. The new system uses lens optics to focus the UV light of energy-efficient LEDs and thus keeps irradiated surfaces permanently free of fouling.

The new antifouling UV spotlight was developed for continuous deployment on the three autonomous MARNET measuring stations, which the IOW operates in the middle of the Baltic Sea on behalf of the Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency (BSH) for monitoring the marine environment. Underwater sensors continuously register temperature, salt and oxygen content, currents, and the development of phytoplankton by means of chlorophyll-a-fluorescence measurement.

Quartz glass lenses focus the UV light to counteract underwater light scattering and efficiently direct the radiation exactly to the target area. Both point and area emitters can be realized.

Applications include marine research and aquaculture.

From spring 2017 onward, Robert Mars, together with colleagues from the IOW instrumentation team and the institute’s fine mechanics workshop, developed and tested various prototypes of an LED-based UV antifouling system. BSH financed the final implementation phase. The result was a handy device with a robust titanium casing and a plastic mount from the 3D printer, which can be produced quickly and easily adapted to different installation conditions.

The new antifouling UV spotlight of the IOW has already been successfully in use at all three MARNET stations since June 2019. All target areas can be kept completely and permanently free of fouling by irradiation from a distance of up to 1 m. 

A patent is pending for the spotlight, with its innovative first-time use of the lens optics, which are key to its powerful antifouling effect.

It has been licensed for serial production by the company Mariscope-
Meerestechnik since February 2020 and can be pre-ordered:

Germany: Niklas Becker
Phone: +49 4346 6000 490

Chile: Christian Haag (managing director)
Phone: +56 65 2310522

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